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Cambridge Rugby Shield


Sep 16

Darlington Mowden Park away

So this Saturday Cambridge head to the home of the railways to take on Darlington Mowden Park.

Darlington is in the Tees Valey. King James visited in 1603 on his way South to London and described it as "a mucky, mucky town and mair shame on its people." But by the 19th century a handful of Quaker families had led a civic revivial, bequesthing the town some fine Georgian architecture. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Pease family. They were rich wool merchants who diverified into banking - they were also prominent in the Peace Society and Anti-Slavery Society.

When there was a plan for a canal to move coal from the Durham hills to the wharves at Stockton, they instead suggested a railway and hired George Stephenson to build it. The railway opened on Spetember 25th 1825, the train had space for three hundred passengers, but six hundred crowded aboard, thus we can see overcrowding has been endemic on our railway from the very first journey.

Alhough they did carry passengers, coal generated the income. There were insufficient steam engines and they were unreliable, so most trips were still horse drawn. The trains were equipped with a so called dandy cart in which the horse could rest and eat hay as the full waggons rolled down hill to the Tees. The horse then pulled the empty waggons back up to the mines.

Although overbudget, the railway made significant profit. It soon outgrew the limited quay at Stockton and built the larger docks at Middlesborough. It was soon providing half he coal burned in London. It linked up with North Eastern Railway, with Darlington still a stop on the East Coast Main Line. The original Stockton and Darlington track still in use as the Tees Valley line. Locomotion No. 1, the engine that pulled the first passenger train, is on display in the Head of Steam museum at the station.

The Pease family used the wealth from the railway to build Mowdem Hall on the outskirts of the town. They sold the house in the 1930s when it became a school and more recently Government offices. In the 1960s a housing esate was built in its grounds. In 1970 the Darlington Grammar School Old Boys culb was looking for a new home and were able to buy land in Mowdem and as like many other side, they had stoped being just an Old Boys side changed their name to Darlington Mowdem Park. Recently they were offered the chance of buying 25,000 seater Darlington Arena from the bankrupt Darlington FC, so moved again. I am told the arena has a wide pitch with a firm surface - which encourages running and passing play to stretch the opposition. There is however a swirling wind that can make kicking dificult.

This is our first encounter in the leagues and as far as I know we have not met in the cup.

Darlington Mowden Park had three successive championships in 1999, 2000 and 2001 to reach National 2 North for the first time - but did not survive. It was not until 2012 they regained level four. In 2014 they were runners up and hosted Ampthill in the play-off. The match went to extra time, before DMP prevailed. In the last two seasons they have finished 9th and 7th.

From what I can gather the DMP side have pace a plenty in the backs and a capable if not steam-roller pack. They have suffered a lot of player turnover, with some retiring, many moving up the pyramid and a few off to Coventry. Add in a few players carrying knocks and the first game saw only five players who had played last season - but I am told players are coming back rom injury and last weeks squad looked more familiar to the DMP faithful. They have kept last season's coaching team, Danny Brown and John Newton, who both also played for the club - so there some contiuity. This season they have lost to at Hull Ionians, beaten neighbours Blaydon by a single point and won convincingly away at Ampthill.

We can expect a warm welcome from ex-Blood and Sand prop James Penman - though I doubt he will give his old club any favours once the whistle goes for the start of play.

Sep 16

Six Nations 2017 Tickets



Applications are now welcome for the following matches ..

  • 4th February England v France (Ballot – restricted ticket allocation)
    Category 1 - £115 Category 2 - £106 Category 3 - £98 Category 4 - £89 Category 5 - £75 Category 6 - £51

  • 26th February England v Italy (Unrestricted ticket allocation)
    Category 1 - £105 Category 2 - £96 Category 3 - £86 Category 4 - £76 Category 5 - £69 Category 6 - £51

  • 11th March England v Scotland (Ballot – restricted ticket allocation)
    Category 1 - £88 Category 2 - £80 Category 3 - £73 Category 4 - £65 Category 5 - £58 Category 6 – £47 Junior tickets £30 all categories


Prices above include a £10 administration fee.

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Sep 16

Old Albanians Preview

So with the third match of the season 1st XV rugby finally comes to Volac Park when the Blood and Sand entertain James Shanahan's Old Albanians.

"Before the Romans came to Rye or out of Severn strode" - Varlamion was the centre of power of Celtic Cattuvellauni. Under their king Cunobelinius - or Cymbeline as Shakepeare would have it - their power expanded Eastwards to Colchester. His son Caractacus continued the expansion. As a war leader he probably wore more than the loin cloth he is shown wearing in the sculpture at Mansion House, but not a uniform despite Gilbert's famous Major General being able to "tell you ev'ry detail".

Caractacus's success led his enemies to appeal to the Roman Emperor Claudius for help. This gave Claudius an excuse to invade Britain. Caractacus led the resistance to the legions, but after years of struggle was eventually defeated and taken in chains to Rome to face death. However, following a famous speech - as given by Peter Bowles to Derek Jacobi in TV's I Claudius - the Emperor spared his life and he lived out his days peacefully in the eternal city.

The rest is history. Varlamion became Roman Verulamium and then Saxon St Albans. The martyr was commemorated by a cathedral, which founded a school and spawned a rugby club.

Last season Cambridge completed the double over Shanners' side, but both matches were close affairs. The home match was won by four tries to three, 29-23 a late try by Lawrence Hutchinson sealing victory. The return fixture at the Woolams was closer. With time up, Brenden Burke finished off a move that had started in the shadow of our own posts to level the score. James Stokes stepped up to kick the conversion to win the match.

The victory sent Cambridge onwards and upwards to take the league, but OAs season stuttered - they lost the next two matches which effectively ended their hopes of first place. Though, of course, they secured promotion through the play-offs.

Old Albanians started this season with a 3-35 win away at Blaydon. Last week they lost by a single point to Ampthill in a match played in the horizontal rain. So both clubs have one victory and one defeat, but OAs have two bonus points. It is early days, but this suggests it could be another close contest.

While most of the Old Albanian squad will be familiar from past season - there is one potential new face that stands out. They have obtained the services of the ex-Scotland captain Kelly Brown in his come back from injury. He played all 80 minutes of the Blaydon match, but returned to Saracens for their match against Exeter last week. Load regulations limit the number of times a player can swap between clubs - so he may remain with the Premiership side - but it is not impossible he will run out on Saturday.

The weather forecast is for the expected heat wave to have broken, but it will still be pleasantly warm and dry. So as Shakespeare says, "Fear no more the heat o'the sun" and come and support the Blood and Sand in what should be another epic encounter. The club is organising a Beer festival, so why not leave the car at home.


Aug 16

Roger Parker

A few weeks ago we let you know about Roger Parker's planned fund-raising ride.  Well Roger completed the ride, raising more than his £5,000 target (although you can still donate here).  

ITV News picked up Roger's story which you can see here. Man completes 50 mile challenge after four month coma.



Jun 16

Rugby Force Thank-You

Thank-You Volunteers

We'd like to offer an huge thank-you to those volunteers that gave up a large part of their weekend to participate in the Rugby Force weekend.

As a result of your efforts the club is looking much tidier and ready to welcome our next season of rugby.


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